ZIMBABWE plans to borrow from local companies to raise $100 million needed to hold a referendum on a new constitution with donors expected to finance elections later in the year, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said on Monday.
The MDC leader also revealed that he had reached an agreement with President Robert Mugabe over a new head for the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) following the resignation of former judge Simpson Mutambanengwe.
The country will vote in March on whether to adopt a new charter approved by parliament that seeks to curb sweeping presidential powers while strengthening state institutions such as the cabinet, parliament and judiciary.
Rivals Tsvangirai and Mugabe formed a power-sharing government after a disputed 2008 election and agreed to hold fresh polls only after adopting a new constitution.
Tsvangirai and deputy premier Arthur Mutambara, said the government wanted to borrow from firms, including mines and banks, as well as issuing Treasury bills.
"The finances required for the referendum and the parallel voter registration and inspection is US$100 million. We believe we can raise that internally,” Tsvangirai told reporters at a press conference.
“We have also requested the UNDP to help fund the election. Whatever is raised by the UNDP will go towards the national elections."
Mutambara added: "We are saying to the private sector: 'This is your country, political stability is in your best interest.'"
But the country has a history of defaulting on its loans and with external debt topping $10 billion at a time most foreign donors have withheld money, pressing for political and economic reforms.
Finance Minister Tendai Biti has already approached the United Nations to help raise money for general elections, which by law are due when the current presidential and parliamentary terms expire at the end of June.
Meanwhile, Tsvangirai said the GPA leaders had identified a new head for the electoral commission and dismissed media reports claiming Mutambanengwe had been forced out.
He said: “Let me correct an impression on Justice Mutambanengwe resignation, he was not forced out but opted out voluntarily on health reasons.
“There were a couple of names that we were considering but we arrived at somebody but I am not at liberty to reveal the name because the person may not be aware.”
The MDC-T said the leaders had rejected calls by civic organisations for a change of the referendum date to give people time to register as well as examine the new constitution.
He said: “We don’t have a voter’s roll in terms of the referendum, there is no voters roll and all those other cumbersome procedures, and so one day is enough.
“If we could vote in a harmonised election on one day why can’t we do that in a referendum? We are going to reach out to everyone, we will expedite the process to make everybody understands the document.”